Set in Colombia, the film mixes realism with magical elements which is enthralling. The movie kicks off with the tragic background story of Alma Madrigal, (María Cecilia Botero), explaining how she receives her mystical powers. When fleeing natives are killed by European colonisers, Alma is blessed by a river that gives her an eternally burning magic candle. This blessing also isolates their land from invaders and builds them a new sentient home ‘Casita’ for Alma to raise her family and thrive.
We are then taken forward in time where Alma is famously known as ‘Abuela’, and she is the matriarch of her multi-generational Latino family, the Madrigals. We soon discover each child through the generations has received the blessings of the magical candle and gained superpowers. The Madrigals use their blessed powers to help and serve their communities. There is an exception to this rule, our protagonist Mirabel Madrigal ( Stephanie Beatriz) who failed to receive any powers when she came of age. She tries her best to help everyone but pales in comparison to her other family members. Also, she is the first Disney princess with glasses!
Mirabel is a brave, loving character with the tenacity to keep her head up even when it seems the cards are stacked against her. She plays a complex part in understanding and trying to resolve why the family magic is being lost. She has a wonderful character arc as she grows to be a true part of this multifaceted family, even without a special power.
The world of Encanto mesmerises you with the marvellous artwork that you would expect out of Walt Disney Animation Studios. The lush flora and fauna of Colombia make you feel the warmth of being alongside nature and its own people. It is hard to forget the exotic tapirs, chilled-out capybaras, and judgmental toucans as you leave the movie theatre. The animations even flesh out the emotions for the ‘casita’, which makes it feel like a thriving family member of the Madrigals. Each family member also oozes with life, personality, and a myriad of emotions.
Unfortunately, there is no earworm in this new Disney musical. The songs 'Surface Pressure' and 'We don’t talk about Bruno' will make you tap your feet, even though the lyrics won’t stick with you. Other than this, the background score is phenomenal and immerses you in this fantastical world.
An exotic setting and a touching storyline coupled with a nice execution show how Disney has grown in its portrayal and storytelling about people from different ethnicities. This is among some of Disney’s best-animated work, and it is a must-watch in the theatres near you. Overall, this movie is like getting a warm embrace from a person you love on a cold winter night!